Roadmap for The Decade of Open-Source (2020 to 2030):
Let’s Fix the Broken Web, Together!
You made it; welcome to this fresh new decade!
Looking back at 30 years of the internet, we should be proud. Mankind’s achievements are enormous. We have perfectly organized everything in the world, mostly user-friendly at the same time. With Google we find information, we use Facebook and LinkedIn to organize the people in our lives, and we travel with platforms like Uber.
Without the vigorous leadership of giants like these, we would have been nowhere near today’s state.
At the same time, some people feel that the web as we know it is broken. Our devices are optimized to misuse the attention of our beloved ones. Others feel exploited by corporations or affected in our democracies. Recent research by IPSOS learns that people in Europe experience an increasing amount of distrust towards the internet.
However, this will not be a sad story. I’m hopeful and optimistic that 80-90% of all the problems we face with the internet, can be fixed in the coming 10 to 25 years. However, I do believe that the coming decade is a crucial one.
I work full-time with open-source software for over a decade (I co-founded my WordPress agency in 2006), actively contributing (WP GDPR, 1,3M+ downloads & Laraberg, bringing WordPress’ editor to Laravel). From that perspective, I thought it would be valuable to remix powerful insights and quotes of thought leaders in open-source; plotting a roadmap for the new decade.
As the opportunity we have fascinates me, I hereby declare this the Decade of Open-Source. #DecadeofOpenSource
Why should 2020-2030 be the Decade of Open Source?
- The web as we know it is broken (plagiarism, revisionism, click-baiting, exploitation, fake news, mass manipulation, democracy is at risk…), but …
- … at the same time, building blocks, big thinkers and best practices are in place to start decently fixing a lot of these problems in the coming 10 years.
“I believe Open Source to be the only way to build a pro-privacy, anti-monopoly, open web.” stated Dries Buytaert, founder of the Drupal CMS. And I couldn’t agree more.
Last June, I gave a presentation for 2,500 developers called “From WordPress to blockchain, the Future is 100% Open Source” at the world’s largest WordPress conference. This article, published at the dawn of the new decade (2020 to 2030), is a follow-up to this presentation.
Let’s Fix the Broken Web, Together.
- The Urgency for a Decade of Open Source
- Adoption of Alternatives to Society-Critical Platforms
- What we do at WordProof
- Join the Movement! #DecadeofOpenSource
The Urgency for a Decade of Open-Source
Inspired by my smart friend, I’ve created this so-named ‘Burning Platform’. In short: what are current and future threats (the urgency, so you will), and what are our current and future opportunities?
I filled those in from society’s perspective:
Current Threats to Society
Social media and platform businesses exploit participants and their attention.
On the web, businesses, value creators (sellers, publishers, drivers, etc.) and value extractors (buyers, readers, riders, etc.) have no fair and equal chance of succeeding, in relation to each other. And social media has not been a good friend to us either.
For example, the attention of our parents, kids, friends, family, and colleagues is being exploited by mega-corporations. At Facebook in 2018 alone, our attention is being auctioned to advertisers for 55 billion. Also in other platform businesses, packaged as sharing economy, drivers and deliverers are being exploited and powerless.
Distrust on the internet is growing.
Journalism, and therefore our full democracy, is at risk (Cambridge Analytica). Currently, even the biggest corporates are not capable of protecting our data.
Future Threats to Society
Only a few companies own all the world’s data.
These platforms, being able to censor what we do. We have to trust those corporations in not being evil.
Critical services might be unavailable.
Corporations offer their services only where the business case matters to their shareholders, potentially excluding many.
Unequal distribution of Opportunity.
Opportunity isn’t distributed equally. This results in an ever-decreasing amount of income for middle and lower-income households.
Current Opportunities for Society
The platform economy offers job opportunities for many.
Although monopolies currently exploit their participants in many cases, The platform economy offers an opportunity for everyone (businesses, value creators and value extractors).
Blockchain technology revolutionizes finance.
In the case of hyperinflation, open-source money tends to be a solution to store value, proving that blockchain technology potentially revolutionizes finance.
Communities can be market leaders!
WordPress, amongst others, proves how the open-source model can build an inclusive, anti-monopoly, pro-privacy future. Its market share is ever-growing, currently empowering 35% of the web. Communities can be market leaders!
Future Opportunities for Society
Transparent alternatives can replace current Platform Economies, Social Media, and Search Engines.
Leverage well-proven open-source building blocks and best-practices to build an open-source platform economy on, as blockchain allows us to commit to integrity with intention, rather than just hoping that it exists.
Opportunity for everybody to purposefully and inclusively make a living.
Redefine Platform Economies, Social Media, and Search Engines in an open, anti-monopoly, pro-privacy, and inclusive way. As a developer or participant, you can purposely fulfill a role that fits your personal, organizational or community’s beliefs while making your living in that way!
If you ask me, those are immensely interesting building blocks to start the new decade with.
Act now and take advantage. Especially if you’re working in open-source already, this will be your decade. If you don’t, it’s never too late.
A decade in which we work towards open source alternatives for any critical platform we use, from searching to sharing, from social media to news platforms.
A #DecadeofOpenSource …
- … in which we have the opportunity to redesign the world and take (back) control over platforms and data;
- … in which we create alignment between companies and their user bases;
- … with transparency throughout whole technology stacks, so everyone can see every algorithm used. For example how things appear in their feed, who’s paying for it, how matches will be made on platforms etcetera;
- … where when your data is valuable, you’re the one who’s reaping the rewards, not an organization that’s just constantly incentivized to extract value.
This decade is all about shifting from ‘Don’t be evil’ towards a ‘Can’t be evil’ society.
As Dan Larimer recently contended:
Blockchain allows us to commit to integrity with intention, rather than just hoping that it exists.Dan Larimer, CTO Block.One, 2019
How far will we come in the decade of open-source? Let me sketch a bit of perspective here …
Adoption of Alternatives to Society-Critical Platforms
Despite the obvious benefits, not everyone will immediately adopt disruptive ideas. That is what we’ve learned in the last 100 years.
Extracted from this video on Roger’s Diffusion and Adoption Theory, here are some stats on the adoption of new technology, looking at how long it took before radio, television and the internet achieved its first 50 million users:
- Radio: 38 years
- Television: 13 years
- Internet: 4 years
Looking specifically at social media:
- Facebook added 100 million users in 9 months;
- Twitter needed only 3 months to add 50 million users.
Now, let’s looking at Open Source specifically.
Open-source ‘eventually’ dominates every sector it enters. In less than a decade they often become the dominant platform in its space.Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, 2017
However, one of the hurdles for adoption is monetization. “If you look at open-source code bases of the last decade, they’ve been the fastest-growing types of codebases out there, but there hasn’t really been a [direct] monetization model to it,” said Brendan Blumer in 2019.
Nevertheless, WordPress, world’s #1 CMS, has been around for 16 years; being a market leader for almost a decade now, with an ecosystem around it that makes $20 to $21 for every dollar Automattic (who commercially exploits WordPress.com) makes.
WordPress needed 16 years to reach a 35% market share. In 2012, 10 years after inception, WordPress reached the 16% market share milestone, which is where you flip from early adopters to the early majority in Roger’s Diffusion and Adoption Theory.
As blockchain has the potential to put monetization models around open source software, it could immensely improve its adoption.
Of course, before any adoption could happen, products or platforms should be there in the first place …
While blockchain technology is maturing (it was December 2019 when I initially wrote this), platforms are being built on them. Among them are:
- SteemIt (an experimental blockchain-based social content platform, founded in 2016, which rewarded participants with over $60 million);
- Voice.com (by Block.One who raised $4bln, launching on February 14th, 2020);
- Bluesky (by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey);
- WordProof (timestamp content in WordPress);
- Decentralized Finance (banking on the blockchain);
- Eva.Coop for ride-sharing …
… among many many others. Some of them are still in the prototype phase, others are actively being used by innovators.
Given the dynamics of open-source (often implying that it’s harder to organize marketing) and the current state of blockchain technology, I’d expect the adoption of decentralized alternatives to be a bit slower than Facebook and Twitter, but faster than WordPress.
My predictions for the coming decade …
- we reach ‘early-majority’ of at least one Social Media platform with a transparent technology stack;
- we reach the ‘early-adopter’ phase of a transparent Ride-Sharing app;
And hopefully …
- On December 31st, 2029, more people are earning their incomes via sharing economy platforms that are blockchain-based, than on centralized platforms (like Uber).
- On December 31st, 2029, more people are on decentralized social media than on centralized social media (like Facebook).
For the short-term:
- I expect to see the first decentralized applications reaching 1 million users in two to three years.
Thanks to the amazing people around me, I have the pleasure to dedicate all my professional time to the open-source / blockchain ecosystem. Here’s what we work on …
What we do at WordProof
A short plug of what we do. Since the start of 2019, I decided to combine my passions for both WordPress and blockchain into WordProof.
It all started with this quote from Brendan Blumer:
In five years from now, if you don’t timestamp your articles on the blockchain, you’re going to be considered a fraud.Brendan Blumer, CEO Block.One, London Fintech Week 2017
WordProof is committed to bringing exactly that to the world of content and e-commerce. In the first months:
- over +160,000 pieces of real content have been timestamped by our users;
- blockchain industry giant Block.One wrote about us, and …
- Matt Mullenweg called it “One of the coolest things [on WordPress and blockchain] I’ve seen so far”.
Timestamping is a use-case that actually works!
It might even be the key to the mass adoption of blockchain technology as it’s both valuable as easy to get started with.
Join the Movement! #DecadeofOpenSource
Ready to dive into it? Here are your terrains to explore over the next years, to actively take part in the Decade of Open-Source:
- Educate yourself on Open Source and Blockchain
- Explore Blockchain Technology & Governance:
- Making any form of value programmable
- Separating Money from State
- Separating Identity from State
- Design Open Source Social Media, Sharing Economy Platforms and Search Engines
- Improve Marketing of Open Source
- Overcome Objections to Open Source
- Overcome Objections to Blockchain
- Learn about Funding and Business Models in Open Source (here’s a Case-study on WordProof’s funding with Telos’ Worker Proposal System)
If you want me to elaborate or share resources on one or more of the topics above, let me know via a comment or by sending me a Tweet (I’d be happy to replace this with a decentralized alternative asap).
To close off with, here’s a free interpretation of another anecdote by Brendan Blumer:
Q: Can a centralized organization compete with decentralized alternatives?
Open-source communities are in fact ‘owned’ by all of its users; the riders, the drivers, it’s content writers who have, if designed right, aligned interests.
When millions of people are invested in making something successful, how does a group of 100 shareholders compete with that?
My belief is that you simply can’t.
Let’s make this decade The Decade Open-Source, Together.
Sebastiaan van der Lans
“Celebrate Progress, Tomorrow is just a dream away.” – Walt Disney